As September rampages along and October looms, the sandwiches -- er, the Generic Sandwich Awards -- keep on coming. But first, it's time for the ...
Munchies of the Week
• White-Out: It's official. There has never been a team that's had a roller-coaster season quite like the 2010 White Sox -- from 9.5 out to 3.5 up to 9 games out again. The Elias Sports Bureau reports that crazy ride up and down the standings has never been duplicated by any team since 1900.
• Loop-de-loop: But ... there have been three teams that dropped to at least 9.5 out, made it back into first place and then fell 9 behind again -- the 1977 Rangers, 1993 Red Sox and 1993 Orioles. Just none of those three teams ever led their division by more than a half-game, according to Elias. The White Sox led the Central at one point for four consecutive weeks.
• Jose can you see: Here's yet one more eyeball-popping way to put Jose Bautista's season in perspective: He led the major leagues in home runs in three of the first five months of the season -- May, July and August. So how many men in history have ever done that in any season? Exactly five, according to David Vincent, the Sultan of Swat Stats. And you may be familiar with that quintet: Babe Ruth (six times), Jimmie Foxx (twice), Lou Gehrig (1936), Ralph Kiner (1947) and Jim Rice (1978).
• And how about four? Of course, this month isn't over. So theoretically, Bautista still has a shot to join the Bambino as the only men to lead the majors in homers in four different months in one season. (Ruth did that three times, and also -- because he was The Babe -- led in five months in a row in 1921). But it's tough to like Bautista's chances of catching Troy Tulowitzki, who leads him in September trots, 11-4.
• Drive home safely: I know it seems as if it takes two hours just to get through the first three innings of your average AL East game. But believe it or not, the Blue Jays and Orioles zipped through a Kyle Drabek-Brad Bergesen duel Wednesday in a mere hour and 55 minutes. According to Elias, it was the first nine-inning AL East matchup that got to the finish line in under two hours since another Jays-Orioles game on -- ready for this? -- Sept. 26, 2002 (Esteban Loaiza versus Pat Hentgen, in 1:59). Even more amazing, it was the shortest AL East game in over two decades -- since an epic 1 hour, 50-minute Jaime Navarro-John Dopson Brewers-Red Sox tussle on Oct. 1, 1989 (the final day of that season). So that game Wednesday in Baltimore clearly wasn't merely a baseball game. It was more like a visit by Halley's Comet.
• Grand Prix: I'm still trying to digest how this is possible: The Nationals' Justin Maxwell, a career .206 hitter with 194 at-bats in the big leagues, now owns three grand slams. And George Brett -- who played 21 seasons, got 10,349 at-bats, hit 317 home runs and got 3,154 hits -- only hit two grand slams. Maxwell hit those three slams in his first four trips with the bases full. The only other player in the last 40 years who hit three slams in his first four career at-bats in the big leagues, according to Elias: Shane Spencer, in 1998.
• Lucky 13: Twelve starts after pitching a no-hitter, Edwin Jackson just twirled a 13-hitter last Saturday. To find the last pitcher to do both in the same year, you have to go all the way back to ... uh, June -- when Roy Halladay finished off the same daily double.
• 20/20: CC Sabathia just went for his 20th win of the year Monday -- and David Price had other ideas. The only other time in his career CC went to the mound shooting for his 20th win -- last Oct. 2 -- he also came up short, in a game in which the opposing starter was (yep) David Price. So who's the last pitcher to deny a guy his 20th win twice? Would you believe it was Brad Radke? According to Elias, he got in the way of Esteban Loaiza's 20-win plans in back-to-back starts on Sept. 11-16, 2003.
• One and done: Loyal reader Derek Brown posed my favorite reader question of the week: The Giants have now found a way to lose two one-hitters this season (in games started by Jonathan Sanchez (April 20) and Barry Zito (Tuesday). Has any team, Brown asked, ever done that before? And the correct answer, according to baseball-reference.com's sensational Play Index, is: They're the third team to do that in the live-ball era. The others: Dick Drago's 1971 Royals and Bob Hendley's 1965 Cubs.
• Scrabble board: Finally, loyal reader Russell Kahn readily admits, "I need help." And the proof was, he looked at a September game that matched up Javier Vazquez and Toronto's Marc Rzepczynski and thought: If we were playing baseball Scrabble, wouldn't this have to be the most Scrabble points on one mound in history? Both of them have two Z's in their last names. Vazquez also tosses in a Q. So that's 40 points for Rzepczynski, 37 for Vazquez. (Here, see for yourself.) And if you can top that, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. But if you do, you're also required to admit first: "I need help."
And now, the Sandwich Awards envelopes please ...
The On a Roll Award
Normally, the Sandwich Awards Committee isn't in the habit of giving out these awards to the same guy in back-to-back weeks. But Troy Tulowitzki is having the kind of month that makes me break all our own rules.
At least this time around, we don't have to spend any time extolling Tulo's brilliance. Just have to let his insane numbers speak for themselves:
• He's outhomered the Yankees this month (11-10). Not to mention 10 other teams.
• He's gotten more extra-base hits this month (15) -- in a little over two weeks -- than Cesar Izturis has gotten all year in Baltimore, in 430 at-bats (14).
• As loyal reader Eric Orns reports, this man is so hot, he had three times as many multi-homer games in a span of eight games this month (three) as he'd had in his entire, 531-game career before that (one).
• Tulowitzki also hit those homers in back-to-back trips to the plate in all three of those multi-homer games. Which means, Orns says, he went back-to-back more times in a span of 30 plate appearances (three) than he had in his previous 2,268 plate appearances (two). Crazy.
• And, finally, there's this: Troy Tulowitzki has more homers than singles (seven) this September -- and more homers than strikeouts (nine). Think about that. When he's come to the plate this month, he's been more likely to hit a home run than he's been to either whiff or hit a single. OK, so that's not unprecedented. Paul Konerko actually did that as recently as this April. But no National Leaguer has done it, over a full month in which he homered at least 11 times, since Albert Pujols in April 2006 (14 homers, 10 singles, 7 strikeouts), according to Elias.
So I'm not sure whether Troy Tulowitzki has finished chomping on his last Sandwich Award. But it's time we served him up another one, ready or not.
The Cold Cuts Award
Remember how Manny Ramirez was going to drop into Chicago, smell his 2012 paycheck and turn himself back into pre-fertility-drug Manny?
How's that going?
It's now 2.5 weeks since Manny joined the White Sox. They're still waiting for his first extra-base hit. Not to mention his first RBI. That's in 14 games and 54 plate appearances.
Let's put those gruesome numbers in a little context:
• Only two other times in his career has Manny ripped off this many games in a row without an extra-base hit -- and they were a long, long time ago. The first streak (15 games, 47 PA) came in 1993, right after he was called up in September for the first time. The second (16 games, 61 PA) ran from May 15 to June 7, 1994, in the first half of his first full season.
• Never in Manny's 18-season career had he had a stretch of 14 straight games without an RBI. His previous high was 12 -- twice. And again, both of those streaks came a lifetime ago, in 1995 and 1997.
• Among the people in baseball who have gotten an extra-base hit during these 2.5 weeks in which Manny has gotten zero: Jorge De La Rosa, Brett Myers, Derek Lowe, Jon Garland and the aforementioned Cesar Izturis. Not to mention Livan Hernandez, who has smoked one more homer and one more double than Manny.
• Among the offensive machines with an RBI in that time in which Manny has gotten nada: Daniel Hudson, Chris Narveson, Carlos Zambrano, Mike Pelfrey and a guy who actually got released during this period, Akinori Iwamura.
• And, finally, compare our man Manny's White Sox numbers (.286/.444/.286, 0 HR, 0 XBH, 0 RBIs) with his first 14 games after arriving in L.A. in 2008: .423/524/.769, 5 HR, 8 XBH, 17 RBIs. Any more questions?
"You know what I think?" said an executive of one club. "I think he was on some good vitamins back then that he can't take anymore."
Hey, you think? Well, maybe he can at least replace some of those essential nutrients with ... a Sandwich Award. What else?
The Super Sub Award
Matt Stairs isn't going to Cooperstown when he's done. He's actually most likely headed for the nearest hockey rink, as long as it serves refreshing beverages to keep him entertained while he's watching those faceoffs.
Nevertheless, Matt Stairs is right up there with the most fun players of his era. And, in the wake of the 22nd pinch homer of his unique career, this one launched Tuesday at Coors Field, it's time for a special salute to the Pinch Home Run King of All Time:
• Stairs now has hit pinch homers off 20 different pitchers -- including two of them twice (Huston Street and Matt Capps).
• He's hit pinch homers against half the teams in baseball (15).
• He's launched pinch homers in 14 different parks -- four of which are either now defunct or at least not in current use (Candlestick, Cinergy, the old Yankee Stadium and Las Vegas' scenic Cashman Field).
• All 22 pinch bombs have been hit against righthanded twirlers.
• All 22 were mashed in either the eighth inning or the ninth.
• He's thumped 11 solos, eight two-run homers, one three-run homer and two grand slams (which were hit, naturally, 11 years apart).
• Three of those pinch homers tied games. Four gave his team a lead.
• And while there's no stat that proves this, you can mark this down: Matt Swairs hit every one of them while swinging the old Louisville Slugger as hard as a human being could swing it.
The funny thing is, that listing of those historic pinch homers doesn't even include Stairs' most famous pinch homer of them all -- his game-winning two-run monster mash in Game 4 of the 2008 NLCS, off a man (Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton) who hadn't allowed a home run to anybody in five months.
I remember asking him afterward if this was the kind of home run he'd dreamed about all his life. He looked at me like I'd just arrived from Neptune.
"No," he said. "I've probably been dreaming of scoring on a breakaway."
Oh, right. Hockey fan. Well, he probably never dreamed of winning a Sandwich Award, either. But we've now served him one anyhow.